Belfast City Council has launched a review of platforms like Airbnb [Credit: Visit Belfast]

Belfast City Council initiates rental platform review

Northern Ireland: Belfast City Council will review the impacts of rental platforms like Airbnb on the city after a reported 40 per cent rise in bookings in the country between May 2018 and May 2019.

The figure, calculated by short-term rental data provider AirDNA, was disputed by Airbnb as being potentially ‘misleading’ and ‘inaccurate’ as it originated from a third party organisation.

In response, AirDNA told the BBC: “We scrape property and reservation data from all ten million listings on Airbnb and HomeAway to put together reports. Our metrics are the most accurate in the sector and are independently verified by CBRE (an American commercial real estate services and investment firm) to be within a five per cent margin of error across the board.”

Now, a Belfast councillor is calling for affordable housing to be maintained at the same time as the rise in popularity of short-term holiday lets.

It follows on from a story in June, when ten European cities submitted a joint letter to the EU imploring it to help counter the expansion of rental platforms across the continent.

Katie Nicholl, Alliance Party councillor for south Belfast told the BBC that while there were positives and negatives in the situation, a city housing review was necessary.

She said: “There’s a demand for housing in our city that we cannot ignore. We are interested in looking at measures to cap them.

“It’s all happened so rapidly we need to make sure that how we deal with and how we approach it is carefully considered. You can lose that sense of community and cohesion in some areas,” she added.

With the growth in rental bookings worldwide, the short-term let industry is projected to be worth up to £1 billion to Northern Ireland by 2020, according to Ulster University research.

Airbnb told the BBC it is ‘built on the principles of making communities stronger and spreading tourism benefits to local families and businesses’.

It added: “We want to be a good partner to the places in which our hosts live and have long led the industry in developing clear home sharing rules and promoting healthy tourism.”

Meanwhile, HomeAway said it takes its responsibility of ‘keeping the balance’ between offering holiday homes and its effect on communities ‘very seriously’.

However, professor Paddy Gray said short-term rentals in Belfast were having a negative impact on the city and ‘hollowing out communities’.

He said: “You have tourists being imported into areas as temporary residents and in some cases, it’s causing tension. It can also force people out because obviously rents can go up because landlords want to use their property as an investment with Airbnb because it can be a lot more lucrative.”

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